THE WAY TO THE GIFT. There stands within sight of my own door, a grove of elms shadowing one side of a clear streamlet meandering amongst pastures and cornfields for more than a mile and half. On the other side of this stream is a raised pathway, dry at all seasons of the year, and forming the nearest and most frequented route to a small cluster of houses dignified with the name of a village, and congregating round the ruins of an old abbey, the grey walls of which are visible from our cottage. The sun was just sinking behind this grove of trees as I reached my home, and his beams slanted through the foliage with a soft, serene, tender light, and threw their long shadows over the surrounding fields. Every thing looked so placid and peaceful that I felt my own spirit rebuked as I entered the door of our little dwelling. I lingered on the threshold for a few seconds to gaze a little longer at the quiet corn fields, with their trees and hedges standing, as it were, knee-deep in the waving crops that covered them, and then retired to my parlor, so busy with my own thoughts, that I took no notice of my wife or little



It is not good for man to be alone. I had nursed my uncharitable feelings for some time, and the sweet influences of the outer world, though they had reproved, had not corrected, this unhappy state of things.

• Well, Charles,” said Mrs. Enderby, on my entrance, " and how have you fared since we parted? But you seem dull: is any thing amiss ?”

Tired,” said I, doggedly. There are few things more touching perhaps than undeserved solicitude. I was tired; but this fatigue was not the matter that lay most at heart. With all the tenderness of which a wife is capable, I was attended to as if I were really an object of pity rather than an untoward and refractory pupil in the great school of gospel discipline. My better feelings were awakened, and my heart being opened, I told her every whit, and hid nothing.

“I remember,” said she, roguishly, “you once preached a sermon, from the text—"Is thine eye evil because I am good ?” She said no more, nor was there need to do so. The circumstances

were as fresh in my remembrance as if the thing had taken place yesterday. I could answer nothing; for I had then censured in no very measured terms the jealousy of those men who because they had borne the burthen and heat of the day, found fault with the righteous award of their Great Master in giving to those who had wrought but one hour the same as to themselves. Its application was now obvious. The casual and unrecognized laborer in the Lord's vineyard, last and least as I thought him, had received his hire in the soul thus given to his ministry, whilst I, an older, a more constant, and, as I thought, a more orthodox steward of the mysteries of Christ, had spent my strength to no more purpose—if really to so much. “Come, come, Charles,” said she, after a brief pause,

6 I must be chaplain this evening; and as the sun is now down, we will order supper,

and call in the servants." The “great ha' bible” was laid upon the table; and to my surprise, my wife drew it towards her. “ Charles, you will pray,” said she, “and I will read to-night, as you are tired.” The book opened naturally at twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians; for they had often furnished matter for remark and friendly disputation. But that evening I heard them through a medium very different from any under which I had before listened. I saw that, however useful each member might be in its place and service, it could do nothing without the consent and co-operation of the others; and though the idea was perhaps somewhat out of keeping with the seriousness of the occasion, I thought how strange a figure a phalanx of arms and hands only would make in a war of aggression; or a regiment of mere legs and feet in a retreating movement. And then carrying out the simile, I asked myself if the whole course and conversation of the Christian were not as really a warfare as the soldier's calling. Was not his great object to captivate the world and subject it to Him who is the blessed and only potentate ; and could he do this without a consentaneous movement of those members which make up the mystical body of the church militant? As I listened attentively to these inspired illustrations of the fact that “ the body is not one member but many," I felt more and more ashamed of my own littleness, and when I knelt to pray that evening my

stubborn spirit seemed to give way at once, and the garment of praise superseded the spirit of heaviness.

But with the light of the morrow, my thoughts struck off again into their old channel ; and I determined to follow up the subject by learning something more about this Mr. Reynolds. There is nothing, perhaps, more blinding in its influence than prejudice : its very nature, indeed, supposes a tendency to mislead. Instead therefore of going back, as I ought to have done, to the cottage of poor Barbara Griffin, as soon as our morning's devotions were concluded, the day being most inviting, I sauntered forth without having really any definite object before me. Wandering towards the end of the village, I took the road I had travelled when invited to the wedding of my old protegé, Emma Singleton, which had this additional recommendation, that I knew less of it than of any other in the neighbourhood of my own home. A mile or two brought me to the brow of a hill which I had ascended almost imperceptibly, and one of the loveliest views imaginable lay outspread like a map before me. I had not noticed it on my former visit to the spot, from the circumstance of my having been so closely cribbed in the inside of a coach, but I had now full opportunity for enjoying its many beauties. There is something elevating and delightful in the prospect of a wide tract of country, and when the whole landscape is lighted up as this was, with one glorious blaze of sunlight, the effect is singularly calculated to enlarge the mind and disabuse it of all its narrow prejudices. I thought certainly at that time of

The faithful sun that shines with equal warmth

On the deserted hall and festal palace, and I thought of Him also who so caused it to shine on the good and evil-on the just and unjust. But I went on my way still cherishing feelings of unkindness and of bigotry, till having walked altogether five or six miles, I saw, about a mile before me, the outlying houses of the next village. I had not gone a hundred yards beyond the first of these, when I recognised the snug cottage where the delicate young lady with whom I had travelled on my way to Mr. Singleton's alighted. By an instinct not at all uncommon in such cases, I had then looked chiefly at the well-wadded windows, rather than the door, or

I should have seen what now I might have read distinctly, at half-a-mile's distance, the name of “Waddington,” in large characters upon the brass door-plate. Scarce stone's throw beyond this, a narrow street turned off on the right, at the farther end of which, I noticed the gable end of a building that looked


much like a chapel. Following this lane I was not long in doubt as to its real character, for I found hand-bills in the windows of the few small shops I passed, as well as on the doors of the building, announcing that the anniversary services of “ The Hill Mizar” would take place on that very day: the sermon in the morning was to be preached by “Mr. Jeroboam Waddington, minister of the chapel,” and that in the evening by Mr. Gad Rout, from London.

There was much that seemed singular in this announcement. Why a chapel that stood rather in a hollow, than on an elevation, should be called “The Hill Mizar;" why its pulpit should be served by laymen, by plain “Misters,” instead of Reverends; why the minister of the place should have been called Jeroboam, after the son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin, unless from the same feeling which induced the poor woman to christen her child Baalzebub,—because she liked Scripture names; and why Mr. Gad Rout should travel all the way from London for the sake of preaching a sermon in an obscure country village,were all more or less mysteries to me. The name of “Waddington,” as already stated, I had just seen upon the door-plate of a neighbouring cottage, and I made no doubt that


former companions in the coach were members of the family. I felt some curiosity to meet again the young lady and her mother who had caused us so much amusement, and there being more than half-an-hour to spare before the commencement of the morning's service, I determined to retrace my steps, and take my chance of meeting them.

I had scarcely reached the house before I noticed that the door was already ajar, and walking past it unconcernedly, turned round to see if any one had emerged from it. Of course, this was not done in so marked a manner as to give offence, but I was really afraid I had done so, from the


way in which I was stared at. Mr. Waddington I had not seen before, and did not of course know him, but I might have

guessed who he was had I met him miles away, from the fact, that on this bright, burning summer's day he wore a handkerchief over his mouth, and was wrapped in a large blue cloak. His wife I recognised immediately; but in place of the daughter, there were two girls, one of them considerably below, and the other about as much above, the age of twenty. Had I been less disposed to notice them, my attention would have been arrested by the peremptory way in which the father every now and then called to them by name. And such names: Jem and Kerry were the only sounds to which I could assimilate them; and I was not far wrong in supposing that they were so called.

I walked quietly behind the party, at a respectful distance, not without experiencing some little annoyance from the rude and repeated glances of the father, who seemed to think that the whole street belonged to him, and that I had no right to walk there without his special sanction. Walk, however, I did, thinking, perhaps uncharitably, that he had not well studied the injunction, “Be pitiful, be courteous," till the sound of a vehicle behind me arrested by attention, and turning round I saw seated in a low chaise drawn by a wild-looking clumsy little pony, my friend Major Goode, and his comely wife. Supposing that he saw me, I slackened my pace; but, to my surprise, he drove on to the party before, and stepping on to the pavement, handed his wife out briskly afterwards.

Jem and Kerry came suddenly to a dead halt, the firstnamed throwing up her arms like a self-acting windmill, and both ejaculating at once, “ Well to be sure! Kizzy!” The meeting was so warm an one, that perhaps a private rehearsal had been better; though I am such a friend to heartiness everywhere, that I quite enjoyed the sight. Not so the conduet of the father. He looked on apparently unmoved; and when the tumult had subsided, and the new-comer in turn ran up to him, said, as distinctly as his muffler would permit him, half interjectionally and half interrogatively,-“Well!"

The major had driven off again, as I supposed to put up the chaise, apparently without seeing me at all; but as I had already been introduced to his wife, I waited only till the salutations were over, and then walked on to speak to Mrs. Goode,

« ForrigeFortsett »